When it comes to taking photographs, the range of interest and knowledge among practitioners — and the range of the equipment they use — can be immense. You can be happy just taking the occasional snapshot with your phone; you can own a reasonably priced camera and a couple of decent lenses; you can save up your salary for your dream camera along with some really good lenses, straps, and tripods; or you can be a pro whose expertise demands a major investment in top-line equipment.
So, when we asked a staff as diverse as The Verge’s about their favorite camera gear, it wasn’t surprising that we got back a wide variety of answers. Recommendations ranged from $37 backpacks and $58 mini tripods to $450 roller bags and $2,000 lenses.
Whether you’re an enthusiastic amateur or a seasoned pro, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of our favorite photographic gadgetry.
Is the autofocus blazing fast? No. Is the bokeh absolutely perfect? No. But I love this little lens. If you have a small full-frame Sony mirrorless camera like the A7C, it’s a must-have in my book.
It’s very affordable, especially by full-frame Sony lens standards, and it’s just the right size on a compact body. I take just about all of my review product shots with it, and it lives on my A7C pretty much full time. — Allison Johnson, reviewer
At $999, Fuji’s 16mm f/1.4 lens is the most expensive lens I’ve ever purchased in my time as a hobbyist photographer. It’s also by far my favorite thanks to a variety of traits that let it capture images in a relatively unique way.
The first is that wide aperture, which lets in a ton of light (I do a lot of night photography, so a fast lens is much appreciated) and provides great separation between the subject and the background. That gets really interesting when combined with its relatively close minimum focus distance of 5.91 inches and its wide field of view. Put it all together, and you end up with a lens that can get detailed, up-close images that still give a sense of the environment that the subject is in. And, thanks to the f/1.4 aperture, I can choose whether the background is somewhat in focus or just a beautiful blur of bokeh.
I wouldn’t say this is a must-have lens for every Fuji owner; the company makes other lenses with similar focal lengths that are significantly less expensive, have updated designs and autofocus motors, or are more compact. While I’ve heard good things about all those lenses, I just don’t feel the same “wow” factor when I look through example images from them that I got when shopping for the 16mm f/1.4. If you flip through some customer photos on B&H and feel the same, it may be worth taking a look at the 1.4 as your next lens. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
I think this is the crown jewel of Sony’s current full-frame lens lineup. It’s also become one of the lenses I enjoy using the most, whether it’s for a paid wedding shoot, taking pictures of my family, or even snapping shots of my cats at home (not the most practical use of a $2,000 lens, I’ll concede).
The bokeh and sharpness are impeccable, even wide open at f/1.2. In fact, I almost never stop this lens down to a smaller aperture. The magic happens wide open, and this isn’t one of those lenses that only has a “dreamy aesthetic” when doing so — that’s the kind of bullshit we throw around when we’re preemptively apologizing for a lens being soft. Soft lenses and those vintage vibes do have their place and are charming in their own right, but this lens is sharp. And, at f/1.2, that razor-thin sharpness immediately falls off a cliff to some lovely bokeh. Yes, it’s a very expensive lens, but if you’re shooting a Sony full-frame system and you have a love for fast primes as deep as your pockets, it’s damn near perfect. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
Tripods and other accessories
Peak Design’s Travel Tripod is what it says on the tin: a lightweight, compact tripod made out of aluminum that’s easy to take with you on trips and other adventures. In addition to being relatively portable, it’s got a bevy of useful features. It uses the same plate as many of the company’s other camera accessories (I often unclip my camera from my Peak Design Capture and plonk it on this tripod), stores an included phone mount in its center tube, and has a reasonably adjustable ball head. Plus, it’s got a neat repairability trick in that you can break down the tripod for cleaning and repair using the plate attachment tool that lives on one of its legs.
If you value a lightweight kit above all else, you can shell out for a carbon fiber version of the travel tripod. It weighs 0.63 pounds less and costs $270 more. Peak Design also says the carbon fiber version is 20 percent more stable. As a frequent backpacker, I’m no stranger to paying more for less, but I went with the aluminum version — I just couldn’t justify the upgrade. While it still wasn’t an inexpensive piece of gear, the only regrets I have about buying the travel tripod are the times I’ve decided to leave it at home and missed having it while on a trip. — Mitchell Clark, news writer
I’ve had one of the original GorillaPod tripods for years now and I still love it. This basic tripod lets me easily set up my phone — of whatever size — on a flat service to take a photo or watch a movie. I can wrap the flexible legs around a nearby shelf support or pole for a higher perspective or simply fold the legs together to create a selfie stick. A few months after I got the original, I picked up one of the mini GorillaPods, which took up less space in my backpack.
Nowadays, of course, given my druthers, I’d probably pick one of the other of the vast array of tripods that Joby sells. Currently, I’m considering the GripTight Pro 2, which lets you use your phone in landscape or portrait mode and has a second cold shoe mount on top for a mic or a light — as long as it has those cool GorillaPod bendable legs. — Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor
I got this SmallRig as well as a few other camera cage accessories, and it’s the best thing. The camera cage gives me a little more peace of mind since, if I drop or bang my camera, there’s a decent chance the cage will help protect it — obviously not from everything, but some protection is better than none.
I also love all the accessories for it. I have the hand strap that makes the camera more secure in my hands. I also have a top handle for better control for certain types of video.
The best aspect of the cage, though, is that it’s totally customizable as to where and how you add and assemble the accessories. You can kit it out entirely into a very near-professional camera rig or just add the specific accessory you need at that moment. It also makes mounting the camera a breeze. — Grayson Blackmon, senior designer
Throw a stone at a wedding today (though the bride and groom may frown upon it) and you’ll probably hit a photographer using MagMod gear for their lighting. While modern camera sensors allow us to use more natural light than ever before, flash is still necessary for event photography — in particular, off-camera flash (OCF). It’s gotten much easier to use OCF thanks to wireless remote triggering that’s now built right into the flash heads, but shaping and controlling the light is just as important as generating it. MagMod makes some clever accessories to allow you to quickly swap modifiers in and out on top of your flash head. Like all pro-oriented camera gear, it doesn’t come cheap, but the silicone rubber diffusers, grids, and gel holders are all quite durable. The real trick is how they attach and detach with magnets (hence the name), making a quick swap or combining a grid and gel super easy.
I use these modifiers all the time, though MagMod’s cleverly designed collapsible softboxes hold an even more special place in my heart. The MagBox is the only softbox I don’t hate setting up and breaking down. It’s simple, quick, and creates some beautiful light. Just about every wedding photographer I work with these days has one of these in their kit bag for lighting a dance floor, outdoor portraits, or just about anything else. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
Bags and backpacks
Before I received my Caden camera backpack, I was just using the carrying case that came with my Sony camera. The Caden backpack comes with a drink carrier for my water bottle on one side and a fabric “drawer” on the opposite side that slides out to hold my camera body and lens.
This backpack is convenient and comes in handy for situations where I’m possibly going to want to put my camera away. (For example, if I’m hiking and want to take a break or if I go on a trail with snow or mud where I could slip and fall.) It’s good for overall storage and traveling, and while the inner portion of the backpack is limited, it’s big enough to hold my small flash and lens cleaning bag. If I want to carry the backpack without my camera, I can easily unzip and collapse the inner drawer. The laptop portion is tight but fits my 13-inch MacBook Pro with and without my laptop sleeve. — Jasmine Hicks, Verge fellow
Think Tank Photo Airport Security bag
This Think Tank rolling bag is what I use for almost every on-location shoot.
I have a bad back, so I started looking for rolling options and this has served me well. Not only does it fit the two camera bodies, five lenses, strobe, and various accessories I generally have with me but it’s also sturdy, compact, and rolls like a dream. It fits in the overhead space for airplane travel and can carry laptops, books, and other personal accessories when you really need it to. You can strap tripods to the side, too. It’s lightweight, considering, and I have heard the warranty is second to none, though I haven’t had to test that out in the probably five years I have used it. (Note: the bag shown here isn’t the exact model I have — but I am sure this newer model is just as good.) — Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor
Straps and apps
For the clumsy photographer who is all too familiar with the sound of their gear hitting the deck. — Gemma Paolo, senior social producer
I know the name is cringey, but there’s nothing better for event photography if you’re rolling with a two-camera setup than a HoldFast Money Maker or similar-style strap. Yes, you can probably get something cheaper made out of ballistic nylon, but I prefer to look a little less like a toolbox when I’m using my big geeky cameras. The leather is very high quality, and it withstands a lot of wear and tear — though, if you’re considering one for yourself, I strongly recommend not getting the thinner “skinny” version unless your shoulder size warrants it. The cushioned pads on that version slide around on me all the time, and you just don’t have to worry about that with the standard Money Maker straps.
Sizing and personal preferences aside, carrying two cameras for shoots is much easier with straps like these, especially if you never use zoom lenses. Just don’t kid yourself that you’re going to use it any other time than during a job. It doesn’t matter how cool these straps are in the nerdy world of photography; you look ridiculous wearing one of these walking down the street to take some casual snapshots. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
If you use a smaller camera, I encourage you to try a simple, fixed-length strap like the Artisan & Artist ACAM-102 for everyday carrying. It’s a minimalist cloth strap that’s just 35 inches long, so it sits a bit higher under your arm or around your neck. I find it perfect for my Leica M6 and Q2 cameras, often eschewing a bag entirely and just roaming with one camera over my shoulder on this strap — ready to shoot. I went with the black version, which is nicely understated without being all fussy about leather-this or premium-that. Sure, I love some colorful straps for a pop of color or some personal flair once in a while, but after discovering this strap from a very prolific street photographer I met at some NYC events, I really admired his love for it and its simplicity. It’s like a palate cleanser, reminding me to STFU and just take some goddamn pictures. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, writer, commerce
I’ve got Lightroom Classic installed on my MacBook Pro and use it often. But I also try to support excellent software from smaller developers whenever possible. And, over the last several years, Pixelmator has become my go-to editor when working on Verge review photos. Its repair tool is among the best I’ve tried, and it’s a breeze to eliminate dust or smudges from gadgets using my Apple Pencil and iPad Pro. I use Pixelmator Photo when on an iPhone or iPad and Pixelmator Pro on my MacBook Pro. If I feel like applying moody filters or a watermark to my images, I hop over to Darkroom, another great photo editing app available for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. There are dozens of filters to explore and tools to mess around with. There’s still the occasional thing I need to hop into Lightroom for, but I can do 95 percent of my photo work between these apps. — Chris Welch, reviewer